Up the Scamp!

“Let’s start scamping ideas again”

This week I was asked by Sophie: “Can you scamp?” I hesitated before replying, wondering if I was about to be asked to caper around the office like the Artful Dodger, clipping George round the ear before furtively stealing Gemma’s silk handkerchief.

Google asked me did I mean camping or scampi, tells you that there is not much info out there about it, which I suppose is in keeping with it being perceived as a process from a by-gone era

But I confessed my ignorance as to not knowing what scamping was, and so I was told that a scamp is a rough, quick sketch, usually done in marker pens, that conveys a design idea at the early concept stage. It can also involve the tracing of individual images before bringing them together to create a single visual that is a composite of numerous images.

I googled scamps/scamping and the fact Google asked me did I mean camping or scampi, tells you that there is not much info out there about it, which I suppose is in keeping with it being perceived as a process from a by-gone era.

But it’s not quite disappeared yet. There is a LinkedIn page entitled: “Let’s start scamping ideas again,” and even though the amount of comments are admittedly few, it is clear that some talented creative directors are still scamping.

Andy Thirsk seems to be one of the rare creatives who still champions the scamp, but that may simply be because he is one of the rare creatives who are actually good at scamping, for it does seem to be a dying art.

The dictionary definition of “scamp,” is to do something in a perfunctory or inadequate way, but often a scamp is very much the best and adequate way to proceed in the early days of a project. It certainly seems to be a way of producing more ideas in a shorter space of time.

I imagine it comes down to personal preference, your inherent artistic ability and knowing the whims of your individual clients as to whether you decide to show your scamps at a pitch. Some clients will love them, and it could instigate a highly productive meeting where the client feels engaged and involved in the creative process, and to even have someone within a pitch meeting who can scamp quickly on demand must be a huge plus. A case of wooing a client with your talent. But others will want to see something more polished, feeling they have not got value for money, or they may simply lack the vision to see the full potential of the idea. Scamping is not really concerned with the details. When done at their best, they are perfectly good enough for an early pitch meeting.

I very naively thought scamping/the sketching of ideas, call it what you will, was an integral part of nigh on every advertising and marketing agency, but it seems as though most people now go straight to the computer screen to compose images. That’s perfectly fair enough, what with it being 2014 and all.

I’m very meticulous in my artistic approach, which is not really conducive to being a good scamper at all. Also, I am very good at drawing from observation, but have never really done much visual conceptualising, so if I am going to be a good scamper, I am going to have to force myself to work in a way that is inherently alien to me. But that sounds like a challenge to me. I think the hardest part is putting pen to paper, and the fear of making a mistake. Mistakes and experimentation are fine, and once you are content with the idea of making errors, you can really get stuck into it.

At Gasp we don’t currently use scamps in pitches (hence Sophie wanting to have a capable scamper), but we do like to pitch our visuals on boards, a bit old school, rather than have everything on PowerPoint or similar. And a lot of our clients really appreciate this approach. People must see presentations projected on to screens all day, so the displaying of boards at a pitch must be a breath of fresh air. Having something more tangible in front of you, I think, will always be appreciated.

An app came out about a year ago, called “Ad Scamp,” which basically turns the ipad into a light box for tracing, which is a really good idea. I am not sure how many downloads this app got, but clearly there is still a need and appreciation of scamping.

Ad Scamp from Matt & Bren on Vimeo.

Time will tell as to whether I can actually scamp. But whether or not I succeed, it would certainly be cool to see a Scampnaissance in advertising and marketing.

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